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Politics & Power

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Reforming America: Understanding Our Past (Part VI Articles IV, V, VI & VII of the United States Constitution)

Perhaps the greatest achievement of our Founding Fathers was the creation of the United States Constitution. Written in Seven Articles it established the rules for our society and bound a nation together. Over two hundred years after it was written it is still as relevant as it ever was. There are many who would argue that in post 9/11 America the preservation of the Constitution is more vital than ever. As we continue to examine the Constitution we come to Article IV, the section that covers the relationship between the States and the federal government:

Section 1 - Each State to Honor all others

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Section 2 - State citizens, Extradition

The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, But shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

The preceding paragraph was superseded by the 13th Amendment in 1865. With the abolishment of slavery written into the U.S. Constitution perhaps the darkest chapter in American history would begin to come to a close. While truly equal rights would not come for decades it was an important first step to righting centuries of wrong. While great was the wisdom of our Founding Fathers their vision was not perfect. Slavery was an acceptable institution to them. It took nearly a hundred years from the drafting of the Constitution to remove perhaps one of the worst mistakes in American history from its pages.

Section 3 - New States

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

Section 4 - Republican government

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

The framers of our Constitution were students of history and in their mind the forms of government embraced by the Greeks and Romans were preferable to the British form of a Crown and Parliament. The Founding Fathers were well educated and well-read students of Enlightenment thinking, which focused on the use of human reason. Philosophers of that era challenged longstanding traditions and institutions such as the church, aristocracy, and monarchy. After suffering under the oppressive rule of the British for too long, the last thing they would have embraced was creating a duplicate form of government to that of the Crown. In some ways it was that thinking that also led to Article V dealing with making changes to the way our government and nation operated:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Our Founding Fathers wanted to assure that changing the foundations of our democracy would not happen on a whim or without consensus. Article V assured that the Constitution would not be changed without the approval of a strong majority of Congress and the overwhelming majority of the States. That is in large part why in over 200 years the Constitution has only been amended 27 times.

Article VI of the Constitution covers the overriding authority of the Constitution over all other governing documents in the land and provides for the continuance of agreements entered into under the Articles of Confederation. Also importantly, it establishes the defense of the Constitution as the primary purpose of elected officials as opposed to swearing allegiance to a leader or a religious figure as proof of loyalty to the nation:

All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

The final Article of the Constitution defines how the document would be ratified by the States. Only by approval of 9 out of the 13 States would the document become official. Approximately 3/4 of the States were required to make the Constitution the law of the land:

The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

The Constitution was approved by unanimous consent of the States present on Monday September 17, 1787. On December 15, 1791 ten of the current twenty seven amendments to the Constitution would be ratified and become known as the Bill of Rights. Those rights would go on to shape the character of a nation for centuries to come. As we come to the end of the body of the Constitution it is important to note that the document, while not perfect by any means, represents for the most part the best of what we are as a nation. It represents what we should aspire to be as a nation. It is not hubris or pride but simple fact that rarely in the course of human history has a document had the impact on the entirety of humanity that the U.S. Constitution has had. It is at the heart of why the oppressed desire to come here and why oppressors despise our nation. It represents the hope of victory by determined patriots over oppressive rulers. It stands as a shining testament to what can be accomplished when human hearts yearning for freedom unite to overcome tyranny and establish a lasting union built on respect and compromise.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom | Staff Writer | E-mail Comments on this column. | Click icon to Digg this article

Get Involved

Do you sit and yell at the TV when politicians come on? Do you shake your head sadly whenever you see a homeless veteran? Is that all you tend to do?

It's time to put up or shut up America. We all love to talk about how we could do things better or how we would do it if we were in charge. Well, it's time to put your money where your mouth is. If you can think of it, you can write it down. If you can write it down, you can type it. If you can type it, you can e-mail it and if you can e-mail it, you can send it here.

We at Reform America are committed to giving voice to anyone who wants to put their ideas out there to make our nation a better place. As the readership grows, we are able to take those views to a wider and wider audience. Grassroots campaigns begin with voices speaking out. You have opinions. Voice them. We aren't about conservative or liberal. We aren't about pro-this or anti-that. We're about Americans and the First Amendment. Reform America is about politics by, for and of the people. You are the people. You only need to speak up. America is listening. Send your article to:

Have You Been Downsized Due to Outsourcing?

For several years now we have listened to some within the business community tell us that America can't compete on a global scale unless they send our jobs overseas where they can be done cheaper. The question becomes, if we don't have good paying jobs here, how can we sustain our own economy? We want to hear from you. Have you lost your job? Have you been forced into a lower wage job due to outsourcing? Has outsourcing been a success for you? Did you end up in a better job?

Tell us your story so we can make sure the politicians see how outsourcing really impacts the workers who are backbone of America. Send your story to

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